Obituary: Dr Harry McDougal Parker

  • By Stella Searston, RM SME, MAIG, FAusIMM and Larry B Smith RM SME.

1946-2019

Harry Parker
Harry Parker.

Harry McDougal Parker was born in New York on 7 February, 1946. Harry’s youth was spent in the outdoors while his father worked for the National Park Service (NPS) as a ranger and naturalist at the Grand Tetons, Crater Lake and Yosemite, as well as a stint at the NPS offices in Virginia.

Harry was introduced to geology by his mother, Katharine, who had an Bachelor in Geology from Radcliffe and a Masters in Religious Education from Union Theological Seminary. Geology courses for Radcliffe were taught at Harvard, where Katharine had to take notes from the hallway because women were not allowed in the classroom. She later took graduate courses in geology at Berkeley and briefly worked for the oil industry. Harry was particularly proud that she later co-founded the Julian’s Anchorage Home for Battered Women in San Diego.

Harry graduated from St Andrews High School, Middletown, Delaware in 1964. The school is best known for its portrayal in the film Dead Poet’s Society. His first degree was a Bachelor of Science in Geology (Honours), from Stanford, conferred in 1967. This was followed in 1969 by an Masters in Geology from Harvard. Harry returned to school at Stanford in the early 1970s, obtaining a Masters in statistics (1974), and a PhD in geology (1975). His doctoral thesis was the second PhD awarded in geostatistics in the US, and developed the approach of using conditional probability distributions to forecast recoverable resources, an approach which is still in use within today’s mining industry.

From 1965-75, in and around his studies, Harry worked for the Hanna Mining Company, with duties that ranged from grassroots exploration to reserves estimation to mine geology. It was this experience that led to his Stanford nickname of ‘Dr Bucks’. In late 1975, he joined Fluor Corporation, where he focused on resource and reserve estimation, audits, due diligence investigations and geostatistical analysis and problem-solving. He wryly observed ‘I was given two No 2 pencils and a writing pad. The second day I was given a timesheet; I wised up quickly that I was expected to find a job to charge.’ He left Fluor in 1989 to co-found Mineral Resources Development Inc (MRDI), now part of the John Wood Group plc. MRDI provided Harry with seminal work experiences in the realms of resource estimation, expert witness testimonies, valuations, geostatistical analysis of geometallurgy, reconciliation, and considerations of resource classification. He developed specialist software for aspects of data verification and resource estimation that were not commercially available at the time. Harry could never refuse the lure of a new project or investigating how a pet project had advanced, and was actively engaged with projects with Wood at the time of his passing.

Harry published more than 40 technical papers over the course of his career. His wide-ranging commodity experience included Cu, Co, Au, Mo, U, coal, oil shale, Ni, Fe, Mn, PGE, diamonds, K, Pb, Zn, Ag, Sn, and alumina. He worked in 17 states within the US, eight Canadian provinces, and 35 countries outside North America. Harry was proud that he had broken a chair on every continent, except Antarctica, and this was only because ‘all chairs there were metal’.

He was a member of an impressive number of societies and professional associations, amongst them the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME), AusIMM, the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG), Geological Society of America (GSA), Society of Economic Geologists (SEG), Institution of Mining, Metallurgy and Materials (IMMM), and the International Association for Mathematical Geology (IAMG). Harry was registered as a Professional Geologist in California, Arizona, and Minnesota.

Harry served with distinction on the Committee for Mineral Reserves International Reporting Standards (CRIRSCO) from 2007-18, including as Deputy Chair from 2013, Chair from 2015-16, and Past Chair from 2016-17. Harry played a pivotal role in assisting potential members to meet the criteria for membership of CRIRSCO such as Mongolia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, India and Turkey, and continued to assist China with their progress toward membership.

Harry was an integral part of the SME, serving as Chairman of the Registered Members Committee from 2007-12; as co-Chair of the Resources and Reserves Committee from 2007-18; on the SME Valuation Committee from 2012-19; and on the SME Ethics Committee from 2013-19, including as Chair from 2015-2019. He was a driving force behind the development of the SME’s 2017 edition of the Guide for Reporting Exploration Results, Mineral Resources, and Mineral Reserves. Harry was instrumental in establishing the Registered Members category within the SME, and enabling adoption of new bylaws to permit Registered Members to serve as Qualified or Competent Persons under the SME Guide and CRIRSCO-compatible foreign codes and standards.

Harry’s contribution to the world of geology and geostatistics was recognised by numerous bodies. He was awarded AusIMM’s Institute Medal in 2019, the SME’s President’s Citation in 2017, the SME’s Award for Competence and Ethics in 2012, and the Southwest Mining Foundation’s American Mining Hall of Fame Medal of Merit in 2007. He was made an Honorary Life Member of the Geostatistical Association of Australia, an Honorary Fellow of the Professional Society of the Independent Subsoil Experts of Kazakhstan, and an Honorary Representative of CRIRSCO. He was also conferred the Mongolian Best Geologist Award in 2015, and given APCOM Recognition Awards in 2015 and 2017.

Harry, reflecting on his industry time, identified a number of milestone projects, or as he called them, ‘character-builders’. In 1978, he pioneered the use of use of sequential Gaussian conditional simulation in the US, using the technique to determine the effect of variable drill spacing on the reliability of uranium reserves. 1981 saw the completion of a due diligence valuation of domestic minerals assets for St Joe Minerals, or ‘$500 million in five days’. In the 1990s, he developed unique approaches to estimating mineral resources for Bingham Canyon Cu, Goldstrike Au and Escondida Norte Cu, as well as grade controls for Jerritt Canyon Au. He led the independent valuation of all mineral assets (mines and prospects) to support the privatisation of Brazil’s CVRD, and led the preparation of Technical and Competent Person’s Reports to support the privatisation of Zambia’s state-owned ZCCM. He was a key player in the resource estimation methodologies developed for the Antamina mine in Peru from 2000-09, including developing software to perform rapid exploratory data analysis. In 2006, he described the F-factor concept, the closest to a standard that the industry currently has for reconciliation. The second decade of the 21st century saw Harry immersed in the resource estimation for some the largest modern copper discoveries, at Kamoa–Kakula and Oyu Tolgoi. Harry noted, in late 2019, that ‘overall, it has been an interesting time. I have many memories, mostly good, of hard work that resulted in a good-quality end result.’

Harry’s quixotic interests, from an airsick bag collection that made the Guinness Book of Records, to trilobites, to food and wine, and Porsches, enlivened many a long day on the job. His always inquisitive spirit, intense curiosity over the natural world, enquiring mind, constant questioning, insatiable thirst for data, and relentless focus on geology over geostatistics was truly inspirational. Harry’s catch-phrase ‘in general, an ounce of geology is worth a pound of geostatistics; this may be disappointing to geostatisticians with no geological background; tough’ is still widely referenced.

Harry was always willing to give time to juniors and peers within the profession, and was equally adept at communicating cutting-edge techniques as explaining the basics. He shared his knowledge and tools willingly. Harry facilitated and celebrated the successes of others. He was known for listening, and speaking only when he had carefully decided what should be said—he could provide unvarnished opinions without offending. Harry was highly regarded for his knowledge, integrity, hard work, and new ideas, as much as his generosity, kindness, and respect.

Harry McDougal Parker passed away on 19 December 2019, as a result of complications arising from melanoma. Harry is survived by his wife Susan Kemper Parker, daughter Meg, son Winthrop, grand-daughters Angelina, Sofia, Layla, Sadie, Ashley, and Chloe, and sister Betsy. Harry and Sue enjoyed two days short of 51 years of marriage.

It was a privilege to call Harry a mentor, a peer and a good friend.

Share This Article